Saturday, March 03, 2018

Immortal Love

Written and directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, Immortal Love is the story of a woman is part of a loveless marriage that goes on for three decades as she is in love with another man. The film is a look into a marriage that would later create a family but a family that would become dysfunctional. Starring Hideko Takamine, Keiji Sada, Tatsuya Nakadai, and Nobuko Otowa. Immortal Love is a riveting yet intoxicating film from Keisuke Kinoshita.

The film follows 29 years in the life of a couple who are part of a loveless marriage in which the woman is forced into it after her father had been coerced by a landowner into having his daughter marry the landowner’s son. Though she loves another man, she wouldn’t see him for very much due to this marriage that would spawn three children yet the family life would be just as tumultuous as the marriage leading to tragedy and other revelations. Keisuke Kinoshita’s screenplay is told in five different chapters as it begins in 1932 and ends in 1961 as each chapter focuses on a different point in this chaotic marriage between Sadako (Hideko Takamine) and Heibei (Tatsuya Nakadai). The film would capture five key moments in time such as the fact in Heibei returning home in 1932 as a war hero with a limp as he would pursue Sadako and force himself upon her much to the dismay of her lover Takashi (Keiji Sada).

Takashi would suggest to Sadako to run away on the latter’s wedding day but the former doesn’t show up at the site they were supposed to meet leaving Sadako to a fate of chaos. Even as Sadako’s married life would be fraught with difficulties including news about Takashi becoming ill and meeting his wife Tomoko (Nobuko Otowa) that would just cause trouble. Sadako’s life as a mother is also complicated as she and her eldest son Eiichi (Masakasu Tamura) would often fight with Eiichi often going to Heibei for support. It just adds to a lot of complication that would continue throughout this unhappy marriage that would go on for nearly 30 years.

Kinoshita’s direction is entrancing for the way it plays into the life of a farmer’s daughter who is forced into the marriage of a landowner’s son. Shot on rural locations near mountains and farmland areas in Japan, Kinoshita would use a lot of wide shots of not just the locations but also in some of the intimate compositions to show how disconnected Sadako and Heibei are in their marriage. There are also some medium shots and close-ups to play into the intimate aspects of the family life as well as compositions where Kinoshita would have the camera placed at a certain position towards the door of Heibei’s home. The direction also has some intense moments as it play into a tragic event that would cause a brief reunion between Sadako and Takashi as it play into their longing but also where they’re at in this point in their lives. 

The final two episodes set in 1960 and 1961 isn’t just about these revelations into this loveless marriage but also a decision that Sadako and Heibei’s daughter Naoko (Yukiko Fuji) would make that would raise more tension between the parents as well as revelations about Sadako’s own feelings for Takashi who copes with his own health issues as his own scars from the war would return. All of which play into this tense and tumultuous marriage and puzzlement of what could’ve been if these two had never gotten married. Overall, Kinoshita crafts a compelling yet haunting film about a woman who is forced into a loveless marriage that eventually becomes torture both man and wife.

Cinematographer Hiroshi Kusuda does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography to play into the sunny look of the exterior locations along with its usage of low-key lights for the scenes at night. Editor Yoshi Sugihara does terrific work with the editing as it is largely straightforward in terms of its lack of style in order to capture the intensity of the drama in some of the long shots in the film. Art director Chiyoo Umeda and set decorator Hachiro Soda do fantastic work with the look of the house Heibei’s family owns as well as the rooms and the more modest home of Takashi upon his return. The sound work of Hisao Ono is superb for capturing the atmosphere of the home as well as the locations to play into the changing times in the world outside of the country. The film’s music by Chuji Kinoshita is phenomenal for its flamenco-based score as its usage of acoustic guitars and songs that are played between chapters add a sense of dramatic urgency and foreshadowing that would occur as it’s a highlight of the film.

The film’s incredible cast feature some notable small roles from Eijiro Tono as a policeman in third act of the film, Kiyoshi Nonomura as Takashi’s brother who would tell Sadako news about him, Yasushi Nagata as Heibei’s father, Akira Ishihama as Takashi’s son Yutaka, Yukiko Fuji as Sadako and Heibei’s daughter Naoko, Masakazu Tamura as Heibei and Sadako’s eldest son Eiichi, Yoshi Kato as Sadako’s father who bears regrets over putting his daughter into a terrible marriage, and Masaya Totsuka as Sadako and Heibei’s middle son Morito who appears late in the film with revelations about the truth of what his father and his father’s family had done forcing him to take on a path of his own. Nobuko Otowa is fantastic as Takashi’s wife Tomoko who is in a similar situation as Sadako in her marriage to Takashi yet would endure a worse fate as she coped with being raped by Heibei that lead to her own descent.

Keiji Sada is excellent as Takashi as Sadako’s lover who is angry over what Heibei did yet makes a decision that would impact everything as he copes with the choices he makes as well as dealing with an illness that he would carry for much of his life. Tatsuya Nakadai is brilliant as Heibei as a farm owner’s son and revered military officer who would force himself on Sadako and marry her only to become tormented by the marriage as well as being extremely needy. Finally, there’s Hideko Takamine in an amazing performance as Sadako as the daughter of a farmer who is forced into a loveless marriage as she deals with the chaos of being a wife of a man she hates as well as the loss of her own chance at true love where she also deals with family chaos and tragedy as it is a riveting performance in the film.

Immortal Love is a phenomenal film from Keisuke Kinoshita. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, an eerie score, and a gripping story about a tumultuous marriage, it’s a film that showcases the idea of a forced marriage and the impact it would have on many including two people who hate each other. In the end, Immortal Love is a sensational film from Keisuke Kinoshita.

Keisuke Kinoshita Films: (Port of Flowers) - (The Living Magoroku) – Army - (Jubilation Street) - (Morning for the Osone Family) – (Carmen Comes Home) - (A Japanese Tragedy) - (Twenty-Four Eyes) - (She Was like a Wild Chrysanthemum) - (Yorokobi mo kanashimi mo ikutoshitsuki) - The Ballad of Narayama (1958 film) - (The River Fuefuki)

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